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L.A. Kings fans are split on which Coyote to dislike the most

Phoenix captain Shane Doan hears the boos as lineups are announced and he goes on to score two goals. There are chants against goalie Mike Smith, who made 36 saves to help Coyotes avoid elimination.

May 20, 2012|By Chris Foster

Every fan base needs a villain in a playoff series.

Kings fans seem to be befuddled by which Phoenix Coyote to pick.

There was Shane Doan, who scored two goals Sunday and continued his seek-and-hit ways in a 2-0 victory Sunday at Staples Center.

There was goaltender Mike Smith, who made 36 saves to help the Coyotes avoid elimination in the Western Conference finals.

Whom do you hate?

"How about Dustin Brown?" Coyotes backup goaltender Jason LaBarbera said.

Ah, yes, but the Kings' captain would top the list in Phoenix. But pressed on who tops the list in L.A., LaBarbera, the former King, offered up Doan.

"I don't think you can cast a goalie as the villain," LaBarbera said. "He's just making saves. You go with the guy who is running around hitting everything and making noise."

Doan, the Coyotes' captain, had a first-period power-play goal that gave the Coyotes a 1-0 lead, ending the Kings' penalty killing streak at 30. His wrist shot off a faceoff in the second period ensured that Phoenix fans would get a chance to disparage Brown in at least one more game.

Smith held the line with the Coyotes up 1-0, though he received a little help from the post on a Trevor Lewis shot. Smith's work was such that Phoenix Coach Dave Tippett could not be accused of embellishing when he said "Smitty was excellent" twice.

Still, Kings fans seemed undecided. Chants against Smith cropped up throughout the game. But Doan was booed when the starting lineups were announced and when he was sent off on penalties.

"As a player, I think it's great," Doan said. "I mean, we boo their team when they touch the puck. So it's one of those things you enjoy. I think it makes you feel like you're at least kind of doing your job."

Doan had been building toward this game since Thursday's loss, which left the Kings one victory short of the Stanley Cup finals.

"Two goals, but you don't see all the things that happened behind the scenes in the dressing room, inspiration for the guys there, how much he cares about this team and winning," Tippett said. "When you can do that behind-the-scenes stuff, back it up with the on-the-ice stuff, it speaks volumes."

But, Tippett said, "we don't have to sit here and talk about Shane Doan. Our players know, the league knows how strong-willed a guy he is. He went into this game thinking, 'We don't want to be swept.' "

Kings fans didn't appreciate it, though they liked Smith's work just as much.

"You can't hate the goalie," LaBarbera said. "It's frustrating when he's making saves, but he's just doing his job."

Heat is on

It is forecast to be 106 to 109 degrees in Phoenix on Tuesday, the day of Game 5. The temperature inside the building will be on the rise as well.

"I'm sure it is going to be pretty loud," Brown said. "The have the 'white out' and whatnot and their fans are excited about their team. It's definitely nice playing in Phoenix this time of year as opposed to the beginning of the year."

As to what adjustments the Kings will have to make after losing Sunday, defenseman Matt Greene stuck to hockey-speak: "We just have to get more traffic in front of Smith."

Mum's the word

Philip Anschutz, the Kings' owner, was in attendance Sunday, but requests for an interview were denied.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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